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Murder charge dropped against teen in Chicago beating

  • Story Highlights
  • Eugene Bailey, 17, freed of charge in Derrion Albert's beating death
  • Bailey says he was Albert's friend, approached police with offer of help
  • Police say Albert was bystander who was caught in middle of gang fight
  • Beating was videotaped and police thought Bailey was in video
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CHICAGO, Illinois (CNN) -- A 17-year-old said Tuesday he is "blessed" that prosecutors dropped a murder charge against him in the beating death last month of a Chicago honors student.

Derrion Albert, 16, was beaten to death September 24. His death was captured on video.

Derrion Albert, 16, was beaten to death September 24. His death was captured on video.

"I'm just happy to be out," Eugene Bailey said, a day after authorities announced they were dismissing the charge against him in the September 24 death of Derrion Albert.

Police said Albert, a 16-year-old honors student, was an innocent bystander who ended up in the middle of a street fight between two factions of students from Christian Fenger Academy High School. His beating death was captured on video, which shows him being hit by a person wielding a piece of a railroad tie.

Bailey said he considered Albert a "good friend" and approached police offering to help in their investigation. When police told him he appeared on the video, he said, he told them, "No, that can't be me."

Authorities searched his mother's home and found he did not own clothing and shoes like that seen on the participant thought to be him, he said.

"I'm just blessed to have my freedom," he said, adding that what happened to Albert "shouldn't happen to anyone."

Cook County prosecutors issued a statement Monday saying, "While the charge against Bailey was brought in good faith based on witness accounts and identifications, additional information has developed during the ongoing investigation that warranted dismissal of the murder charge against Bailey at this time."

"I was kind of overwhelmed," said Bailey's mother, Ava Greyer. "They wouldn't listen to me."

She said she received an eviction notice after her son's arrest, but has since received a letter of apology. She said she didn't think that was right, however: "You are innocent until proven guilty."

"I didn't raise no murderer," she said. "He didn't murder nobody."

"We all talk about what is what out here and point fingers at one another. ... These kids need something to do," Greyer said. "It's not gang-related. They get out of school -- once they're in school it's cool. Once they get out of school, the school says 'Forget 'em.' That's wrong. Get them some after-schooling programs, some recreation centers 20 hours a week."

She said, "That was sad, that was wrong what happened to Derrion. I wish that upon no one. But at the same time, we need to sweep around our doorsteps and see what we can do as a community to keep this from happening to somebody else's child."

Prosecutors said that when school let out on September 24, Albert was on his way to a bus stop when two groups of students converged on the street and began fighting. Albert was approached by two members of one faction and struck in the head with a long piece of a wooden railroad tie, and then punched in the face, Tandra Simonton, spokeswoman for the Cook County prosecutors, has said.

After being knocked out for a brief period, Albert regained consciousness and tried to move from the fight, but was then attacked by members of the opposing faction, Simonton said. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Albert's death remains under investigation, prosecutors said Monday.

Three other individuals still face murder charges: Silvanus Shannon, 19, Eric Carson, 16, and Eugene Riley, 18. All three appeared in court for a preliminary hearing Monday, but their cases were continued to Friday.

Albert's death prompted President Obama, a former Chicago resident and Illinois senator, to send Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder to Chicago earlier this month. The two met with the city's mayor and community leaders to discuss possible remedies for violent youth crime. Albert's death was not an isolated incident: More than 30 youths suffered violent deaths in Chicago last year.

"We shouldn't have to worry about walking down the streets," Bailey said. "We all live amongst each other."

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